Like many other autobiographical writers Ernest Richard Shotton was very much about playing down his memoir. He intended the memoir to be private and wrote that if it was published, he did not want the names of his family to be made public. His memoir begins modestly and he claims he hopes not to “make a huge mess of it.” (1978, 1) He explains how at times he has difficulty remembering the order of events but when reading his work appears chronological.
It seemed to me when reading his writing that the purpose of his memoir was to create an account for him and his family. The presentation of the work to him on his hundredth birthday shows the memoir was a personal narrative. He states that he was encouraged to write when his wife began to suffer from mental illness later in her life. Writing was a way for Shotton himself to refresh his own memory as he didn’t start writing until he was in his later 70’s.
The memoir itself is very much one of explanation and mainly explores Shotton’s working life throughout. His memoir doesn’t necessarily reflect all working-class families. “Memoirists are not entirely representative of their class.” (1992, 51) Some of the references that he makes to his home and family life imply that he didn’t necessarily consider himself as working class. Although the working classes could be considered a broad social group, Shotton may be placed nearer the top of the band.
In memoirs, claims Larson, “The tone becomes self- justifying.” (Larson. T, 2) This could be said to be true for Shotton’s memoir because he appears to focus on many of his successes. This being said, when reading the memoir it doesn’t seem fabricated and I certainly believe that what he writes is very much truthful to his life.
Rose. J, ‘Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences’, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol 53, No1, 51
Larson. T, The Memoir and Memoirist: Reading, writing and personal narrative, Swallow Press, 2007, 2